Nintendo on Super Metroid – origins, creating baby Metroid sounds, tough development crunch, more
Posted on September 18, 2017 by Brian(@NE_Brian) in General Nintendo, News
Nintendo has released an English version of the third interview conducted to celebrate the Super NES Classic Edition. This time, Super Metroid gets the focus. Metroid creator Yoshio Sakamoto and sound designer Kenji Yamamoto participated in the discussion.
Sakamoto and Yakamoto delve into the making of Super Metroid in the new interview. There’s talk about how the project came to be, the approach to creating baby Metroid sounds, and how hectic things got towards the end stages of development – including staffers taking turns sleeping and working during Christmas.
Continue on below for the full interview.
“Make a Metroid Game!”
Yamamoto-san, what kind of titles were you involved with before working on the sound for Super Metroid?
Yamamoto: I joined the company in 1987, so…
That’s five years after Sakamoto-san.
Yamamoto: First, I worked on the sound for Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!  After that, I was involved with the sound for Famicom Wars  and Famicom Tantei Club Part II: Ushiro ni Tatsu Shojo  for the Family Computer Disk System4.
1. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!M!: After the original Punch-Out!! game first appeared in arcades, a new version of the sports action game was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Originally released in October 1987.
2. Famicom Wars: A strategy simulation game released for the NESTM system. Originally released in Japan in August 1988.
3. Famicom Tantei Club Part II: Ushiro ni Tatsu Shojo: An adventure game released for the Family Computer Disk System. Originally released in Japan in May 1989.
4. Family Computer Disk System: A peripheral product for the Famicom system released in February 1986 in Japan. The floppy disks used with the system allowed players to use Famicom Disk Writer Kiosks to write new games onto their disk. This system was sold only in Japan.
What kind of titles did you work on for Super NES?
Yamamoto: Super Scope 6. 
The game you play with a light gun that looks like a bazooka. (laughs)
5. Super Scope 6: A shooting game released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment SystemTM. Originally released in Japan in June 1993. The game came bundled with a Super NES Super ScopeTM accessory.
Yamamoto: Yeah. (laughs) After that, I became involved with Super Metroid.
I see. Sakamoto-san, about when did development of Super Metroid begin?
Sakamoto: I think it was around the autumn of 1991.
That’s already about one year after the release of Super Famicom in Japan. What kicked off development?
Sakamoto: It didn’t start because I said I wanted to make it. My boss at the time was Makoto Kano.  He has retired, so I’ll use the honorific “san” with his name. Kano-san said, “Sakamoto-kun, make a Metroid game for Super NES. I’ll create an environment for it, so we should do it!”
6. Makoto Kano: During his time at Nintendo, he was involved with character design for Game & Watch and participated in the development of many games, including Wild Gunman and Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru. He appeared in the session of Iwata Asks over Game & Watch.
Now I know why Kano-san was the producer. Did you immediately say, “Let’s do it!”?
Sakamoto: I thought we should. But before we started development of Super Metroid, I went on a business trip to Seattle, where Nintendo of America’s head office is. The staff there took me to a shopping mall, and every time we went into a store, they introduced me, saying, “This is the guy who made Metroid!” (laughs)
Sakamoto: And everyone knew about the game. Even a girl in a boutique who didn’t look at all like a gamer reacted dramatically, exclaiming, “Whoa!” in surprise.
And since Metroid was so popular, you thought you should make a new game.
Sakamoto: Yes. I’m sure Kano-san thought the same thing and that’s why he said we should do it.
So you decided to make Super Metroid. Sakamoto-san, what was it like making it for the Super NES hardware?
Sakamoto: I thought it was completely different from NES. With NES, what we could do was simple. But with Super NES, unless you put in a lot of thought beforehand and drew up thorough designs, things that should be possible would become impossible.
What do you mean?
Sakamoto: For example, once development had made some progress, if I told a programmer to make something spin, he might say that it was no longer possible. And I didn’t know much about technology, or rather I was unacquainted with it.
Sakamoto: I joined the company as a designer, and my boss at the time was Gunpei Yokoi , who always said, “Designers don’t need to know about tech. If they do, they’ll start claiming something is impossible before they try, and that’s no good.” (laughs)
7. Gunpei Yokoi (1941-1997): During his time at Nintendo, Yokoi-san worked on game devices such as Game & Watch and the Game Boy system, and he was an integral figure in development of such products as Robotic Operating Buddy (R.O.B.) and Dr. Mario.
I suppose he meant that having no knowledge is better than having a little.
Sakamoto: Yes. But when we tried to make something for Super NES, I thought that would never do. I realized that we needed some degree of knowledge in order to give the programmers instructions, and above all, we needed a firm vision or the hardware would be difficult to deal with.
It took about two and a half years from the beginning of development until release.
Sakamoto: We needed the first year as a learning period.
I see. And one of the goals for Super Metroid was cinematic presentation, wasn’t it?
Sakamoto: Yes. We had a strong desire to make something that people would compare to a movie.
You can really feel the cinematic presentation in the opening scenes.
Sakamoto: Yes. We put a lot of effort into how to present the text, having the camera move so you see a collapsed researcher, revealing that the strange cries come from a baby Metroid, and so forth. Beforehand, I actually made a video on VHS to convey that feeling.
You used a VHS camcorder.
Sakamoto: But how did I edit it? I don’t remember very well! (laughs) Anyway, when it came to cinematic parts—and there are many other instances—I worried to the very end about whether they were all right.
Like about what?
Sakamoto: You know how, during the fight against the last boss, Samus’s energy reaches zero, so the player can’t do anything for a while?
Yes. You think, “What am I supposed to do?!” (laughs)
Sakamoto: I asked people around me about that, and some said that being unable to do anything wasn’t good for a video game, but I really wanted to do that. I really wanted to put in that scene, just like in a movie, in which the baby Metroid comes to help just when you’re desperate and wondering what to do.
It’s a moving scene.
Sakamoto: Yeah. As far as that effect goes, I’m glad I did that.